Siu Mai

(Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)

February: Asian Lunar New Year

While out running errands in Hawaii, Islander would sometimes stop in at the nearest 7-Eleven convenience store/gas station to grab a quick snack and fuel up for the road. She would forgo the hot dogs and choose either a manapua/char siu bao or Hawaiian pork hash/siu mai to go with a strawberry Slurpee. One would not normally think that these popular dumplings, which are traditionally rolled out in carts at Chinese/Vietnamese dim sum restaurants, could be found at a grab-and-go shop. But hey, dis is Hawaii nei—and da locals love ’em.

There are not too many 7-Eleven stores in the Texas town where we live. And they understandably sell taquitos instead of Asian dumplings. So Islander makes and freezes her own siu mai. They are ready to steam anytime as snacks/appetizers for when she craves them, when we have company or when we want to celebrate the lunar new year. It’s worth a try to make some siu mai!

Recipe

(Adapted from AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound shrimp, shelled/deveined/minced
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons green onion, chopped (green parts only)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • round dumpling wrappers, defrosted and separated
  • frozen peas and carrots (optional garnish)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the ground pork and minced shrimp with the egg whites.

Add the water chestnuts, green onion and garlic. Add the cornstarch and mix well. Add the soy and oyster sauces.

Sprinkle in the sugar, salt and ground pepper. Stir in the sesame oil and mix until the filling is well combined. In the middle of a dumpling wrapper, generously scoop a rounded tablespoonful of filling. Make a circle with thumb and forefinger and cradle the siu mai between the fingers to form its round shape and flatten the bottom.

Let it sit back on a flat surface and pleat the sides. Place in a mini muffin tin to hold its shape. Continue making the rest of the siu mai. Top the middle of the dumplings with pea or carrot.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to let the filling set and keep its shape.

Line the bottom of a bamboo steamer basket with waxed or parchment paper. Brush a little oil on it. Arrange some siu mai in the basket, leaving some space between them so they do not touch each other (they expand slightly while cooking so the spacing helps to prevent from sticking). Cover and place in a wok that has been filled with a water bath (do not let the water touch the bottom of the steamer basket). Steam for 30 minutes. Remove the covers and carefully remove from the waxed or parchment paper. Serve hot with soy sauce.

Notes

  • Chinese dumplings, such as siu mai, are auspicious foods for the lunar new year. The pastry wrapper represents a container or bag. The pork filling represents abundance (as pigs are big) and luck ahead (as pigs hoof forward and not backward). Hence, may your purse always be filled with a lot of wealth for the coming year.
  • Look for more lunar new year food recipes on our blog by searching under Theme Menus.
  • Kung hee fat choy!

Kung Pao Lotus Root

February:Asian/Chinese Lunar New Year

When we were visiting China, our tour group was served different lotus root dishes. Even though Islander grew up around Asians and a large Chinese community in Hawaii, she had never tried lotus root until we travelled to China. When we returned to the states, she went to find lotus root at the Asian grocery store so she could try cooking it at home and expand our Chinese recipe list on our blog.

Lotus root is considered a vegetable with a long, tubular stalk-stem (like large potato-like sausage links) growing below the water into the ground and shooting at the surface into a beautiful flower. It has a neutral taste that takes on the flavors of other ingredients. We also like its unique “crisp” bite and smooth texture. Chinese and Eastern medics believe lotus root is a cooling food that helps the body restore balance.

As Highlander loves kung pao chicken, we made a meatless version with lotus root and it was delicious for our Chinese new year dinner (one year, it fell on Ash Wednesday so we abstained from kung pao meat). Kung pao lotus root is a differently delicious dish to start off the lunar new year! Kung hee fat choy!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1-2 pounds lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 6 pieces dried chili pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, skinless
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • oil for frying

Directions

Separate, wash and peel the lotus root like a potato. Slice half the lotus root into 1/3 inch thick rounds and dice the rest. Set aside to make the sauce.

In a small cup or bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

Crush the garlic, peel and slice the ginger and chop the green onions. In a small cup, make a slurry with the cornstarch and water.

Heat a little oil in a skillet or wok. Fry the lotus root slices and cubes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and dry on paper towels. In the same pan, sauté the garlic, ginger, green onions and peppers. Remove from the pan onto a small plate.

Toast the peanuts by sautéing them in the same pan for a minute or two. Return the lotus root and spiced vegetable mixture into the pan. Pour the soy sauce mixture and slurry and mix well until sauce is thickened. Dish out on platter, garnish with extra green onion slices (optional) and serve hot with rice.

Notes

  • Learn more about the nutritional value of lotus root here.
  • Search our blog for other Chinese and Asian recipes to make for the lunar new year.

Snake Cookies

Snake Cookies

February 10, 2013: Asian Lunar/Chinese New Year (Year of the Snake)

Kung hee fat choy! We rang in the Year of the Snake on this Asian lunar year (2013) with some slithery and slightly sweet sugar “snake cookies,” a combination of our Chinese almond cookie and freaky finger cookie recipes. Although these are not traditional treats, the cookies are cute and easy to make for a fun and festive new year (or Halloween) celebration.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup vegetable shortening (we used butter-flavored Crisco baking sticks)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup almonds, slivered, blanched and chopped (optional)
  • green food coloring
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • green sugar (we used Wilton brand)
  • white tube frosting
  • black tube gel frosting
  • strawberry fruit roll up
  • red tube frosting

Directions

Cream the shortening with the sugar until smooth. Stir in the almond extract. Mix in the flour until the dough sticks together.

Snake Cookies

Fold in the almonds, if using, and blend well. Tint with green food coloring. Shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pinch out 1 ½ inch balls. Gently roll out into 5-inch long ropes. Curve into a slight S-shape, smoothing out the cracks.

Snake Cookies

Place on a slightly greased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Continue making the rest of the “snakes”. Brush the tops of the snake with beaten egg. Sprinkle with green sugar. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Snake Cookies

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes but do not brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and crisp up. Use a small round tip to pipe white eyeballs on one end of the snake cookies. Dab a little black tube gel on the white eyeballs to make the pupils. Unroll a strawberry fruit roll up.

SNAKE COOKIES

Slice into thin strips, then into tiny rectangular pieces. Cut slits on one end to make a forked tongue. With a little red frosting, position the red fruit roll up tongues underneath one end of the snake cookies. Continue for the rest of the cookies. Place on a platter and serve or store in an airtight container up to a week. Yield: Approximately 15 snake cookies.

Snake Cookies

Notes

  • Gel food paste yields a more vibrant color on the cookies than liquid drops.
  • Minimize the frosted points of the piped white eyeballs by touching your fingertip with a little powdered sugar, then pressing down lightly to flatten before adding the black gel pupils.

Chinese Almond Cookies

Chinese Almond Cookies

April 9: National Chinese Almond Cookie Day

In kindergarten, Islander was the Chinese queen on the ethnic court for May Day at her elementary school in Hawaii. In junior high, she learned how to make Chinese almond cookies in a required home economics class. In college, she and Monica C. from Taiwan were roommates for more than a year at a university in the Midwest. Now she continues to observe some Chinese traditions whenever she can, which can be a challenge when there is not a large Asian community in the area.

Chinese New Year is probably the biggest cultural holiday Islander would celebrate. Although she does not cook a lot of auspicious foods for the occasion, one lucky dish she would make is Chinese almond cookies. Fortunately, there is a National Chinese Almond Cookie Day and she could bake up a batch with the same recipe she has used since junior high. But these crisp confections can be enjoyed not just on Chinese New Year and National Chinese Almond Cookie Day but throughout the year!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (we use and recommend Crisco brand)
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tube red frosting (optional)
  • slivered almond pieces (optional)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the vegetable shortening with the sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and almond extract. Gradually add the flour mixture.

Chinese Almond Cookies

Knead until a smooth dough is formed. Roll into one-inch balls. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving space between each cookie. Flatten the balls with the base of a drinking glass or cup. Make a dent in the middle with the end of a chopstick or cooking rod or a finger.

Chinese Almond Cookies

Drop a dot of red food coloring in each dent. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add a little red frosting in the middle of the dent. Top with a piece of slivered almond. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool to a crisp. Yield: Approximately 3 – 3 ½ dozen.

Chinese Almond Cookies

Notes

  • Learn more about Chinese New Year foods at the Food Museum website.
  • For additional tips on making Chinese almond cookies, read an article in the Honolulu Advertiser.
  • Search our blog for other cookie recipes.